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Elena is particularly committed to supporting women by helping them become established in tech professions.

Digital Disruption Is Not Something Post-Apocalyptic

“The data-driven economy and the art of data science are already shaping our culture by introducing more analytical, scientific approaches into our daily lives”, says Elena Poughia, the managing director of Dataconomy Media GmbH and the founder & head curator of Data Natives, Europe's largest data science conference.

Big Data, digital technologies, digital healthcare, AI, Machine learning: what can we expect in 2019 and which tendencies will dominate?

I would say none of the above. I think 2019 is going to be the turning point for projects with a social impact. Big Data is a term loosely used to describe the process of obtaining actionable insights from data – but do we really need big data or do we need smart data? To introduce digital technologies as a term in 2019 is outdated – everything that can be digitized will be digitized. Big pharma companies are making shy attempts to move to the cloud and utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to automatize all the processes available – I wish I could tell you that 2019 will be the year to introduce the “AI physician”, but this will be a form of evangelizing with sensational misinformation aimed at triggering civilians and doctors. Most doctors I know would probably argue that the only actual manifestation of big data in medicine is computer vision. The equipment that doctors operate now is far superior and certainly better assists them in diagnosing and curing patients. And to return to your question – I think that projects with social impact will dominate the market. Medicine is a service we do for humans, and that alone has a significance that we should honor in practice.

As we aim to be data-driven and oriented – to speak with numbers, according to a survey we conducted this month, 74.9% of our audience are interested in learning more about AI and ML whereas interest in sustainability projects is almost 3% higher than in healthtech projects.

What are the most promising applications for data technologies in healthcare?

Some of my favorite projects in healthcare include:

  • AIScope: a non-profit organization coming out of Barcelona with the aim of curing global diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and intestinal parasites in every isolated village with the help of artificial intelligence.
  • Similarly, HippoAI Foundation is a non-profit organization aiming to democratize medical information for advancing and understanding the future of medicine through open source data, appears to be very promising.
  • Medica’s 2018 App Competition’s second-place winner caught my eye at the FTR4H event in Dusseldorf – Tonic App helps medical doctors diagnose and treat their patients by curating for them, in smarter ways, the massively dispersed resources they need for their day-to-day work.
  • Vivy: with Vivy everybody can digitally request and manage documents from a doctor or a lab. So all the medical data, such as medical reports, findings, lab values ​​or x-rays, are all on the mobile phone.
  • Boost Thyroid: the BOOST Thyroid app is created by scientists and patients, for patients that enables people with an underactive thyroid and Hashimoto’s to take full control of their health. The goal is to use data to transform the current status quo of thyroid health and bring useful solutions to patients.
  • Xbird: people are dying of preventable diseases every day. Symptoms and early warning signs are not recognized in time and the approach to disease prevention is outdated. Technology can radically improve the chances of surviving preventable diseases. Through the power of data, Xbird is bringing the future of health management into the present day.

Medicine is a service we do for humans, and that alone has a significance that we should honor in practice

Blockchain has been a term toyed by many companies in the healthcare space, mainly due to its potential to secure payment transactions and administer expenses, to securely monitor the supply chain of drugs or to provide a healthcare infrastructure for women in rural areas. Into this space fits Healthbank. With an unique, neutral and independent platform, Healthbank enables people around the world to share their health data. In doing so, Healthbank promotes innovation in healthcare, from prevention to therapy, ensuring both better prices and quality healthcare, for the benefit of all individuals and society.

When and how will digital disruption in healthcare occur?

Digital disruption is not something post-apocalyptic – there is no clear point in time for an eruption or a turning point to take place. Healthcare systems are fortress infrastructures, carefully built to allow little to no infraction. They are systems carefully regulated with many layers – for example, unless you work in a teaching hospital it is rather difficult to obtain data, and with no data there is little to no work. Data is the quintessential element for any scientist in order to make progress and publish.

How will the data driven economy change our lives in the future?

The data-driven economy and the art of data science are already shaping our culture by introducing more analytical, scientific approaches into our daily lives. From quantifying and measuring ourselves to responding and solving problems with a data driven approach; certainly, AI is shaping our lives by changing our jobs and automating manual and repetitive labor, giving us the space and the time to be creative, educate ourselves and think outside the box in order to interpret results. The use of smart machines guided and interpreted by humans is creating a culture of prevention rather than cure, which will lead to longer lasting and more enjoyable lives.


About Elena
Elena studied economics at Durham University in the UK and afterwards earned a degree in modern and contemporary art from Glasgow University. She has worked for internationally renowned art institutions such as the Gagosian Gallery and the Athens Biennale. During this time she also co-founded the Fasma Festival of Arts and successfully launched her independent art publication Dialogos. Continuing with this entrepreneurial spirit, together with her team, she developed Data Natives into an important meeting point for experts from the fields of data science, data analytics and machine learning. In addition, Elena is particularly committed to supporting women by helping them become established in tech professions (photo: Handelsblatt).


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